“Product identity”? Seriously?

If anything, [the Farley case] collaterally gives another example of why this LCWR assessment is taking place. Too many people crossing the LCWR screen who are supposedly representing the Catholic church aren’t representing the church with any reasonable sense of product identity.

— Cardinal William Levada, head of the Congregation for the Defense of the Faith (CDF), in an interview with John Allen on June 15, 2012. Emphasis added.

So, this is one of those moments when I’m fighting hard not to be scandalized. Product identity? Seriously? Did he seriously just say that?

In a way, this statement is not so different from the more traditionally-stated concerns that such-and-so person, publication, or organization is not consistent with official Catholic teaching that tend to come out of the CDF in its role of attention to doctrine.

But language matters. Language matters a lot. Language carries with it connotations and associations; and not only carries them, but expresses them.

Lumen Gentium, the Vatican II document on the nature of the Church, invoked a wide variety of language and metaphors for the church… but I’m really pretty confident that “corporation” and “advertiser” aren’t in there. Nor in the Vatican I era ecclesiology, either. It’s obviously not scriptural.

I’m not aware of any theological framework, either in ecclesiology or in other fields, in which “product identity” is proposed as faithful and fruitful language with which to talk about… well… anything. Maybe there’s some modern institutional ecclesiology that does so? Or some framework that comes out of the fields of missiology or ecumenism? If not specifically theological, is it in the catechism, maybe? Or in canon law? If any readers are aware of such a thing, please let me know. I’d like to understand what doctrinal basis Cardinal Levada might have for using such a term.

Combined with the news that the Vatican has applied to ICANN for rights to a new .catholic domain name — although at least that move has come out of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications, where it makes some sense — I must say this does not inspire me to optimism that the branded “New Evangelization” effort is anything more than a marketing campaign that’s been sprinkled with holy water.

Gracious God, we pray for your holy catholic church.
Fill it with your truth;
Keep it in your peace.
Where it is corrupt, reform it.
Where it is in error, correct it.
Where it is right, defend it.
Where it is in want, provide for it.
Where it is divided, reunite it;
for the sake of your Son, our Savior, Jesus Christ.
Amen.

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5 Responses to “Product identity”? Seriously?

  1. Theophrastus says:

    Canon 216: “[...] no undertaking shall assume the name Catholic unless the consent of competent ecclesiastical authority is given.”

    This law seems to be exclusively devoted to protecting product identity (although that phrase is not used.)

    • Thanks, Theophrastus, that’s somewhat helpful.
      I don’t think that “people” qualify as “undertakings” though, so this is not a direct invocation of an applicable canon; but it does demonstrate that a similar concept is present in canon law. I do wonder how much attention canon 216 gets from the CDF, compared to the other canons in that section.

      On a different note, I find it disappointing that the code of canon law does not cite references to scripture and tradition as the catechism and the Vatican II documents do. This is especially sad since JPII’s introduction describes the code as an attempt to translate Lumen Gentium into canonical language.

      • Theophrastus says:

        Yes, I should have made that clear. This is definitely not the relevant passage for this matter (and the “C” in “LCWR.”) But it shows that “product identity” was a pre-existing concern for Roman Church.

      • Theophrastus says:

        I hit “post comment” before my thought was complete: I meant to say:

        Yes, I should have made that clear. This is definitely not the relevant passage for this matter (and the “C” in “LCWR” does not stand for “Catholic” anyway.) But it shows that “product identity” was a pre-existing concern for Roman Church.

  2. Pingback: 6.26.2102 Sister News Tuesday « SisterNews.net

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